Monday, November 24, 2014

Finally Back in Masaya This Week

Some of the missionaries in our zone.
First off, I just wanted to say that I am glad my sister, Erin, made it home OK from her mission in Peru. I'm not gonna lie -- I wish I could have been there. I sure miss her like crazy! But heck, I almost already have 3 months under my own missionary belt, so I'm glad I left as early as I did.

We helped with a baptismal service at the church.
Last Monday, after P-Day, we went to a Noche de Hogar (Family Home
Evening), and the family served us this soup. I don't know the
name of it, but the soup was the best I have had here so far.
I just had to watch out for the chicken bones in it -- ha ha.
So for this past week, to start off, on Tuesday we had a Zone Division, and I was assigned to work with a missionary named Elder Velasquez up in his area of San Miguel. He is sooooo cool and such a chill Elder. He actually started off his mission serving in El Salvador for the first 6 months, but then he had to come to Nicaragua because of problems with his visa, and now he has been a missionary for about 15 months. It was a really fun day, and Elder Velasquez walks incredibly fast!!! Like, I was dead-tired by the end of the day just because of how fast he walks when he works.

Just in case there is a volcanic eruption,
they have these signs all over Masaya pointing you where to go,
and I decided to get a pic with one!
Then, finally on Wednesday, I was able to work in my own area in Masaya again. It sucks sometimes how we have to visit all the other areas in our zone instead of getting to work in our own area with our own investigators. Sometimes it is a little hard for Elder Sanchez and me because of the zone leader responsibilities of our companions takes so much time, so for instance, we spend more time in the apartment some days because the Zone Leaders have to collect numbers, or we have to go to other areas for days at a time, which is fun at first, but becomes a little boring after the third or fourth time. So I was glad to finally get a few days in my own area this past week.

This next week we have cambios (transfers) and I am 99% sure I will have a new companion. Not sure how it will turn out yet, but I will have officially completed 2 cambios and only have 15 more to go!

This next week we will also get to celebrate Thanksgiving. Of course, Thanksgiving is not a national holiday here in Nicaragua, but a lot of the people know what it is surprisingly (La Dia de Accion de Gracias). Only the gringo missionaries celebrate it, but the latino missionaries of course join us for the food LOL. So we all get a little extra money this week to pitch in for a special dinner on Thanksgiving, and our zone asked a family to help make us a traditional turkey dinner, and then we will eat it together at the church.

Overall, I feel like I'm doing really good. I'm not as tired during the day, and I am trying to drink lots of water (forcing myself to drink a ton because I can tell I need a lot) because, of course, it is still incredibly hot. I think my body is adjusting to not sweat as much, I think, but it is still so hot -- and the other missionaries tell me that Masaya isn't even as hot as other parts of our mission, like Granada or Managua. I am actually jealous of the pictures of the snow back home right now, although I would probably eat my words after only a day or two, ha ha. As for the scorpions, well, the house we are living in is located in the more urban part of Masaya, so we're mostly alright. But it might be more of a problem if I move into other zones that are more rural, or more ghetto houses than the one I am in right now. Really, I am having a few adventures and working hard every day, and as long as I don't start thinking about my time, then it's not so bad. I'm making a lot of friends in the mission, and although my comp, Elder Castro, and I don't always see eye to eye, Elder Sanchez and Elder Mehmetoff help out quite a bit.

Rear view of our sweet new Zona Masaya jerseys.
Unfortunately, we don't have any baptisms scheduled for a few weeks. We had been working with this couple in our area that were planning to get baptized last Saturday, but in the end, they decided they didn't want to get married any more, so they split up and don't want to get baptized either. Kind of depressing end to that story. Anyways, I'm doing great. Spanish is excellent!! Today, we even had a zone activity with all the missionaries in our zone except for two of the Elders. We played a ton of soccer on the outdoor church court. We got some zone jerseys and it was suuuuper fun, really hot and sweaty for everyone, though, ha ha.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Our zone had a blast playing soccer for P-Day today in our new zone jerseys. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Diriomo Critters, A Little Miracle, and Suits

This tree is just on the side of the small dirt road to Diriomo, and it is soooo cool!
The tree is hollow all the way up inside, and when we first crawled in,
all of these bats flew out of the tree cave -- scared the crap out of me!
First off, I would like to give a shout out to my sister, Erin, to say Happy Birthday today! And to my parents happy anniversary!

A pic of the small dirt road through the jungle on our way to Diriomo.
OK for my week.... I wasn't even in my area for more than half of it!!! On Tuesday, for Zone Leader business with my companion, we went to Las Flores, BUT then on Wednesday through Friday, we went to Diriomo again (about 14 km south of Masaya), and this time we stayed a couple of nights with the Elders there, so I was actually in Diriomo for 3 days and 2 nights. It was really fun, though and I got to work with a few different Elders there. However, the house that we stayed in is really infested with spiders and scorpions, so it was a little scary. They have these big tarantulas and the Elders there showed me pictures of the HUGE scorpions that have been in their house! And right after we were all talking about this, we pulled out the mattress-things to sleep on (not comfortable at all, by the way...) and there was a HUGE spider on it and a bunch of eggs. We squished the spider and the eggs, but then a bunch of baby spiders spewed out of them allllll over the mattress. Needless to say, Elder Castro slept on somthing else that night LOL.
These little guys are everywhere here in Nicaragua, and this is just
a baby one. The locals say that they are not deadly, but they will
make you sick for days if you get stung by their tail.

All in all, working in Diriomo was super fun and it's a looot cooler there temperature-wise. The cooler temperatures felt super good at night and in the mornings. When we returned to our area, it was weird not having seen our investigators for so many days. Elders Mehmetoff and Sanchez had stayed back in our area  to keep things going, but they only could do half the work we all normally do. So, in the end, only about 2ish days in our own area this week!!!

Sunset through the jungle in Diriomo -- Paradise!
Alright, now for some of the interesting stuff. So we found out that one of our investigators, well, .... I guess he actually puts little children on the black market! Our Bishop had to tell us when we had this guy's name on our investigator list, which is too bad because the guy was actually progressing with the lessons. Apparently he has worked with the missionaries here before, and he was progressing at that time also, but he deals children around the world. Scary, and that was rather unusual this week. 

Kind of strange, but just about every other day, there is some sort
of parade in the middle of the street here in Masaya, with a band that
follows and plays really loud music, and the people will just get up
and start walking in it, and this one even had a little float with a
bunch of guys carrying it. I don't know why they do it, but
it's kinda cool!
On Sunday, we had a cool little miracle!! SO we do our ¨mission train¨ every Sunday, where we go through our area and pick up people to come with us on our way to church, and it is usually VERY UNsuccesful. As usual, our investigators mysteriously weren't home or couldn't go, but in our last stop at an investigator's house, we walked past a guy sitting in a lawn chair on the side of the road with his little daughter in his lap. As we passed by, he actually shouted something at me along the lines of ¨Hey, how's the view up there, chellie?¨ So by now I am pretty used to stupid stuff like that, and brushed it off. We then went to the investigator's house, and of course, they weren't home, and we almost had to go to church bringing NO one with us (which is really bad)! BUT, I felt a prompting to ask that guy in the lawn chair to come with us...even though he called me as we walked back past him again, and without even telling Elder Castro to stop, I just started talking to him....AND HE SAID YES!!! He went with us, and brought his daughter. It was his first time in the church ever, but he was very comfortable because HE HAS FRIENDS in our branch! He didn't even have to sit with us because he sat by a really good friend of his, and he even had all these people come up and say 'hello' to him and his daughter, and it was a suuuper cool experience! He went to our Sunday School class that the missionaries teach and he took a ¨Gospel Principles¨manual to read, and we will be visiting him twice this week....incredible!! So that was my cool story this week -- a small little prompting and now we have a very encouraging investigator!!!!

ALSO Id like to give a report on my Spanish...nobody believes I'm in training! My Spanish has been improving sooo much! I can understand almost everything now and I can talk to everyone!! I'm so happy!! Not very much frustration anymore in that. Now, I still have a lot to learn about being a missionary, but I feel soooo good about my Spanish! All the people that I talk to always ask me about my height, where I'm from, and what not, and as I am talking to them, they don't believe that I have been here in Nicaragua for barely only one month!! I'm really starting to enjoy the work more as I'm starting to know everyone better and making friends and knowing my area. It took some getting used to, but I did it!!

Last, even though it is so incredibly hot here, we wore our suits yesterday to church just to switch it up.  During our train misional, as we walked around our area picking up people to go to church, we got some very interesting looks and everyone was staring at us because no one has a suit here!!! And because it was so hot, it was kind of fun for our investigators, and the members were so impressed with us. Sure got everyone's attention!
Me and Elder Sanchez in our suits for the train misional.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Another Baptism, Shoe Repair, Comprensión, and Nutella

Pobre ceballos! I feel bad for the horses here, but here is a little farm of them, with some cool scenery
we passed while visiting with Elder Castro in Las Flores. I think its cool!
My folks said tomorrow is Veteran's Day at home, which of course, they don't celebrate here in Nicaragua. However, a ton of people already have little Christmas trees up and strings of lights on their shacks, so I'm guessing Christmas is a much bigger deal!

A little glimpse inside the huge marketplace where they fixed my shoes.
I feel like I've been on a roller coaster this past week out here... some days are much better than others. First off, my rash is finally gone! It lasted until about Wednesday and now I am 100% better. Overall, I would have to say this week was better -- I feel better about everything for the most part. I just need some more time under my belt. BUT, I have some very good news: I can understand the Spanish!!!! This week, I finally have been able to have casual conversations with the people. I am not even sure which day it kinda clicked, but it clicked alright! I am not fluent, but I am sooo happy because my Spanish has improved a ton and I can finally understand what the people are saying!!
These are the guys who fixed my shoes...sketchy, with old school
machines LOL, but it only took 30 minutes and only cost 30 Cordobas!

Also this past week, I went and got my shoes fixed for only 30 Cordobas (less than $1 US), which is a good amount of money here. So now that those are repaired, I hope I won't have to buy more shoes while I'm here, but we'll see. I took some pics from the cool huge marketplace where we got them fixed. The market is huge, and it had lots of hallways that are tiny and crowded. In fact, they have SO MUCH STUFF that I was basically walking on my knees and constantly crouching down to walk underneath all the merchandise they have hanging up. It was my first time in there, and they had a ton of stuff, including some mini electric fans, which I might have to go back and get one. We only have 2 fans in the house we live in now, so we have to take turns. I reeeaally want one to help me sleep, so maybe with my Christmas money from home....

So here is a cool thing about my companion, Elder Castro: he is an artisan! He can do anything and everything to do with leather. So we all really want some Forros (scripture covers) and he had made some earlier in his mission for his own scriptures that look so cool. So we bought all the stuff and he uses the tools from one of the members here, and that's what we have been doing most of the day today for P-Day. In fact, he's still working on them right now, but we went on splits so I didn't have to sit and just watch him make them all day. It is a really long process, with lots of details, but it will be so cool when he is finished.

So this guy was walking his pig, and I had to get a picture of it!
Not many people have pigs here, so its rather unusual.
Also this week, I was able to visit a lot of different areas again with Elder Castro fulfilling some of his Zone Leader duties. I basically got to tag along, but I did have to pay some for the transportation. However, I got to go to Nindiri for the first time, and San Miguel, both really cool little cities close to Masaya. I like doing that, but I know once I am no longer with Zone Leaders, all of that visiting stuff will stop and I'll only be in my area... but it's OK for now -- ha ha.

The biggest news this past week is we had another baptism (actually two)! We baptized the little girl and her grandma that I told you about in last week's blog and sent pictures of their humble home. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera to the church, so hopefully I can get a copy of some of the pics from the Bishop. I'll forward them next week if I can.

I appreciate some of the sports updates from everyone at home, especially the basketball stuff, porque me extraño baloncesto.... However, everyone here LOVES the NFL so they know quite a bit about football games back home. It is funny, though, because the people love to ask me what my favorite team is, it I personally know any of their favorite players, how many games I have attended, etc., and I don't even really like the NFL that much LOL.

Read it and weep -- 185.00 Cordobas for a little jar of Nutella! Dang!
Today for our P-Day, we went shopping in a little nicer grocery store, and they had Nutella and peanut butter! I had to take a picture! BUT, look at the price.... yeah, that's a dream for me to buy one. The 185 Cordobas equals about $4 US, but here that many Cordobas is ridiculous. The little jar of peanut butter is like 100 Cordobas, and it is tiny, not even worth it. The bread we buy to spread it on ins only about 1 cord -- seriously! That's like 3 pennies back home! Pulperias have these rolls we buy that are only 1 Cord each. I really miss chocolate. I also miss making nachos with my brother -- they don't have cheddar cheese here, only this gross kind of cheese that doesn't have to be refrigerated, but they don't have microwaves either. I can't really tell if I have gained any weight. I do know that I am ALWAYS hungry, not that I wasn't always hungry at home either, but I think I am still about the same weight as when I left.

So, there are lots of adventures here in Nicaragua. It's really hard, but it's totally worth it, and I know how much it means to the Lord that I am here. I just love the scenery here. It is similar to when we went to Hawaii, just 10x hotter 24/7, and a looot greener, and the palm trees here are sooo cool and tropical and grow weird fruit/coconut things -- ha ha. Nicaragua is kind of the coolest!

Anyways, that is about all for this week. The baptism last Saturday was really good, but we don't have another scheduled for about 2 more weeks or so. We've been struggling to find investigators who keep their commitments and progress... but we're working on it!!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Chellie, Olsen Cement, and $6 Hamburguesas

Elder Meme, Elder Castro, Elder Sanchez, and Me. Took 5 tries to get this pic.

First off this week, my parents asked me to compare some of my experiences here in Nicaragua with my sister Erin, who is currently serving in the Lima Peru West Mission. So Hermana Haws, who was in my district with me in the CCM and is now serving here in Granada had wrote about some of these things in her letter last week, and my parents asked me about them.

Bugs: I haven't had a lot of problems with bugs other than this nasty hybrid scorpion-spider that we killed in our apartment this week.

Caught me! So our pensionista fixes all of our lunches for us, and
they have these super comfy rocking chairs. Elder Sanchez is just to my
left and he fell asleep too. We almost always fall asleep while we're waiting
for lunch. This little kid is Marcello -- his grandma is our pensionista. Well,
he is hilarious, and he is super short even though he is like 11-years-old.
I love this family -- just super great people!!
Nicaraguan Spanish: Yes! The Spanish here is SO lazy! Its soooo hard to understand when the people talk because they don't say their 's's or 'g's. So for instance, when you walk down the street, people don't say "Hola" to each other, they say "Adio," and the Adio thing is legit, they drop all of their S's when its on the end of a word. 

Cat Calls on the Street: Just about every day, I get yelled at when we walk down the streets because I'm a 'gringo.' They sometimes shout mean things in English (for the first time last week, somene was shouting the 'F-word' at me :( that hadn't happened before.) And the children learn a little English in school, so they love to say 'Hello' and 'Goodbye' in English to me, but it sounds more like 'Goidbyeee' and 'Hallo' -- LOL. But yes, I get called out at a few times every day, no problem though. The members here call all of the Gringo missionaries "Chellie," which is another word for gringo, so that's also something maybe unique to Nicaragua.

A small river in front of our house. Not as deep as my first week here.
This is a cool piece of art by our house. At least I think it looks kind of cool.
Walking: That's all we do pretty much all day, every day, but I haven't been bothered too badly by it. However, I forgot to tell you that during my first week here in Masaya, I had two different times where we had to walk in a river...well, the road had turned into a river! It was literally up to the middle of my calf, well above my ankle, and even the streets in front of our house! When it rains here, it RAINS! and it literally comes out of nowhere...sooo fast! Sometimes, when it rains, when it's not hard, it's suuuper cool! It is literally misting from the sky! It looks like a reaaally light snow, but it's just suuuper tiny drops of water, and it feels amazing, and you dont really get wet. Any ways, I sent a couple of pics in the rain this week when it was just a couple of normal rain days, a little river, but it was not as bad as the other two days my first week. If it happens again, I will make sure to get a picture, mid-calf I tell you!! the whole street and sidewalk just flooded!

We had to stop at this touristy kind of store today in Managua
for Elder Meme and Elder Castro to withdraw some
money from their bank, and there were these
cool hammocks here. Got to get one before I come home!
Here in Masaya, they already had Halloween a few days ago like I told you last week, BUT some of the Nicaraguans still do stuff on Halloween night. Well, only the drunks and gangs. All of the members warn us to be careful, because some people will throw glass bottles filled with their pee at houses and people on the street, that's a Halloween thing all we did on Halloween night was stay in our apartment and enjoy the decorations my parents sent me, and we ate our own candy-- LOL. I did miss home a little bit as I started thinking about all the Haunted Houses me and my friend Micheal did over the years. In the end, no bottles of pee shattered on our house.

SO me and Elder Sanchez were just talking one day, and we did the math on all of our cambios (transfers) for the next 2 years (cambios are every 6 weeks). In 2016, there's a cambio on August 16th, and the next cambio is not until Sept. 27th. From what I have been told, most missionaries go home on the cambio just before their 2 years are completed, and only on rare occasions do they stay for the transfer after their 2-year mark. SO that means there's a good chance that I'LL COULD BE COMING HOME on August 17th or so!!!!!! SO that's really exciting for me because I could be home for my birthday on the 21st of August!!! Which means I'll still only be 19-years-old when I get home, too, which is just crazy to think about. Yeah, OK, enough talking about going home LOL.

The store also had these cool, authentic masks that
are hand carved (everything from wood here
is hand carved!)

So the kids here all know my name, Olsen....that is because there is a huge cement company that dominates in Nicaragua called "Olsen Cement," so people recognize my name because there are cement bags everywhere with my name on it. So I'm actually famous to all the little kids and they always shout out "OLSEN!" Elder Castro always laughs at that ha ha. Speaking of Elder Castro, because of how the cambios work here, we all know he will be leaving in 2 weeks at the next cambios, only 6 weeks into my I will be recieving my new father here soon. Elder Sanchez will obviously be staying here in Masaya to train, and Elder Mehmetof is here until he finished his mission in January. I don't know if I told you already, but Elder Castro is actually 24-years-old! He was converted to the church when he was 19-years-old, and then he left on his mission when he was 23. There is another Elder in our zone who is 27-years-old! It's funny because they both look (and act) like they are only 19 or 20-years-old.

Hermana Vallecillo, Me, and Elder Castro. Hermana V is from Tipitapa
in the north part of Nicaragua. She is really cool and knows a TON of
English because she lived in the States for a year when she was 7-years-old.
Her comp is taking the picture. They spent the day with us in Managua.
Here's some not as exciting about 3 days ago, that rash that I had in the CCM returned. It's not as bad as when I was in the CCM. It is mostly on my stomach and a little on my chest. I still have some of that medicine they gave me at the CMM along with some Benadryl, but it's torture during the day when I sweat and it's incredibly itchy all day long. I've already used like 3 tubes of Hydrocortizone cream and I need to buy more for it...I don't know what's up with that.

My Spanish this week doesn't really seem to be improving. I dont know why....I can't understand anything they say to me! I am still adjusting I guess.....

This past week, we've been working hard, but we dont have any more baptisms lined up until next Saturday. The people here have a hard time when it comes to going to church and fulfilling commmitments. It was Fast Sunday yesterday and we did have 4 investigators come with us to church, but they don't seem too positive. At least the lights didn't fall on anyone this week.

Here it is -- the McDonald's in Managua. We didn't have time to
stop and eat there this time, but hopefully someday.
For P-day today, we had to go to Managua with our companions for some Zone Leader stuff with out trainers, so we took about an hour-long bus ride to get there, and on the way to the Mission Office in Managua, we saw the McDonalds! Hopefully one day we'll get to eat there, but my companions said it is suuper expensive. The prices are basically the same as in America, so it's like 200 Cordovas for a Big Mac (about $6 US)! They don't have a "Dollar Menu", but if they did, it would be like a "33 Cordova Menu," which is still a LOT of money to pay for food here. BUT, I want to try it one day....

Hermana Glorinda's humble abode.
I also had to send you a pic of the home that Hermana Glorinda and her granddaughter, Rafeala, live in. They basically have this little spot of ground, and only the back of the lot has a tin roof to cover their beds and their TV. There is also another family of 5 that shares the little piece of the shack to the right of the picture. Just so incredible how little these people live on, and how much they make do with so little.

Waiting for lunch. I love these rocking chairs.